Base Price (MSRP) - $33,250
As Tested (MSRP) - $44,890
Audi has come further, perhaps, than any other German car company. From the brink of extinction in this market, Audi has delivered continuous product improvement, continuous product line expansion, vast improvements in quality, and a couple of wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans thrown in for good measure. It's a car company on the way out of the lower luxury segment and into the upper, and a company that deserves watching. There have never been as many distinct Audi models to choose from, from the basic Audi A4 sedan to the $90,000 Audi A8L limousine.
One of the products that has brought new buyers into Audi showrooms is the TT, Audi's first true sports car. The TT is a two-seater and comes in both coupe and roadster form. The TT offers Volkswagen's superb quality and attention to detail in a sportier, more upscale design. It features solid VW mechanicals and durability underneath. And for 2004, the TT offers the 3.2-liter narrow-angle V6 to create an entirely new model.
The Audi TT has much to offer. Its styling is pure and retro, recalling Audi's sports car heritage that goes back to the 1905 Tourist Trophy race on the Isle of Man. That theme is carried through inside with a stylish interior in top-quality materials and fit and finish. These cars feel very refined and quite stable, like their riding on rails. The brakes are excellent. The 225-horsepower 1.8 T is quick and the new 3.2 is very quick indeed; Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system comes on these models to put the power down on clean, dry pavement as well as on mud, snow, slush or rain-drenched roads. The standard 180-horsepower 1.8 T lacks the verve of these other two, but is a delightful sports car by nearly anyone's standards.
A total of six models of the Audi TT is available, three coupes, and three roadsters: the 180-horsepower 1.8 T coupe ($33,250) and roadster ($35,250), which come with front-wheel drive and an automatic transmission; the 225-horsepower 1.8 T coupe ($36,700) and roadster ($39,500), which come with all-wheel drive and a manual transmission; and the new 250-horsepower 3.2 coupe ($39,900) and roadster ($42,900), which come with all-wheel drive and a new double-clutch automatic with steering wheel paddle controls.
All Audi TT models come with the latest in active and passive safety features: anti-lock brakes (ABS), an electronic stability program (ESP), electronic brake force distribution (EBD), and an electronic differential lock (EDL) to keep the car going in the intended direction and respond to the driver's steering inputs even when he or she isn't working the pedals properly. The 1.8 T 180 comes with traction control (ASR) to make up for its lack of all-wheel drive. Roadsters come with fixed roll bars in polished aluminum finish behind the seats. All TT models include seat-mounted head and chest side airbags and next-generation dual front airbags; three-point safety belts with pretensioners and load limiters; and the LATCH system for child safety seats.
Leather upholstery is standard on all models. Large 17-inch wheels and tires and Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights come standard.
Options include a Papaya Orange paint ($1000); the baseball optic leather interior treatment ($1000); a Premium Package with HomeLink and heated seats ($700); a Bose audio system package ($1200); the power folding top option ($800); 18-inch wheels and tires ($775); a navigation system ($1350); a leather-swathed steering wheel ($275); and a cell phone prep kit ($350).
Upgrades for 2004 include a standard CD-player audio system in base models, standard HomeLink in base models, standard 17-inch wheels and tires for the basic 1.8 T model, height-adjustable sports seats, and xenon high-intensity discharge headlamps with self-leveling and automatic adjustment.
We were struck by the styling of the Audi TT when it was first introduced as a 2000 model. It was daring for its purity and simplicity of form, and that remains true today, though designers have been allowed far more creativity in the past few year. The designers of the TT were inspired by the original "bathtub" Porsche and the famed Auto Union Grand Prix cars of the 1930s. In short, it looks terrific. The engine is mounted in front and drives the front wheels (or all four wheels), but it almost looks like a mid-engine sports car like the Porsche Boxster.
The new V6 model is distinguished by several new front and rear styling licks including lamps, grilles, and exhaust systems in addition to the rear deck badging. Specifically, the 3.2 features an exclusive front apron with side gills and enlarged inlets for engine cooling. A modified and enlarged rear spoiler and a honeycomb diffuser help reduce rear-end lift at high speeds.
The beautifully laid out and red-illuminated instrument panel and dashboard area in the Audi TT are models of modern industrial design, easy to read, easy to use and understand. Ergonomics has always been a strong suit with modern Audi products. The TT interior is about twice as adventurous as a typical Audi sedan interior, though, with a glamorous center stack, more decoration around the instrument bezels and air vents, and a generally livelier presentation of all the usual information.
The bucket seats are small, but what there is is a good, solid seat with enough adjustment latitude to fit even tall drivers like me (6 feet, 4 inches). The quality of materials, their fit and their finish are unassailable, and there is an interior option for the seats and trim called Baseball Optic stitching that is very sexy, especially in orange or black.
There is room for two average-sized adults in the TT, and that's about all there is. There is a tiny bit of storage available in the door pockets and glovebox, and a tiny stash behind each of the bucket seats, but this is a deliberately cozy interior whether you're driving the coupe or the roadster.
The trunk holds only 7.8 cubic feet of luggage or cargo, just about enough for a weekend getaway (unless there's a black tie function Saturday night). The side windows are very short compared to most cars, even most sports cars, so you have to watch your head on the way in and on the way out or you'll knock yourself in the noggin.
Audi has already established the TT performance envelope with its low ride height, low center of gravity, short wheelbase, narrow track, and turbocharged engines. This little lightweight is intended for those who like their drives, whether to work or to Wonderland, with a little Tabasco and a lot of style. If you're the type who enjoys driving at 11/10ths every once in a while to keep your edge, and can't afford a car from Audi's Lamborghini subsidiary, the TT is your kind of car.
The new top-of-the-line Audi TT 3.2 features an innovative narrow-angle V6, provided by Volkswagen. The angle between the cylinder banks, usually something between 60 and 90 degrees for a V6 engine, is only 15 degrees, so it's no wider than a four-cylinder turbo, but it's shorter so it will fit in the TT's small engine compartment. The V6 is rated at 250 horsepower at 6300 rpm, with 235 foot-pounds of peak torque available between 2800 and 3200 rpm, and in this chassis it feels like more, because you can use more of it more of the time.
The payoff here is the utterly smooth and effortless delivery of power and torque on demand when compared to either of the 1.8 T versions, which you have to rev higher and whip harder to get this kind of serious acceleration. With the new V6, you just pick a gear and mash the pedal, and the extra two cylinders and 1.4 liters of displacement go right to work. Audi says the 3.2 version will go from 0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds, and we believe every inch of that.
With quattro all-wheel-drive and all of the other electronic driving and traction aids in place on such a small, short, narrow, and relatively light (3275 pounds) front-engine car, the faster you go, the more rewarding the driving experience gets. The steering is reasonably heavy to the touch, which we like and prefer to the flighty-lighty steering on most cars, and the car turns in with authority. The 3.2 V6 version is only about 125 pounds heavier than either of the four-cylinder models, and all of that extra weight is over the front tires, which tends to slow its reactions down some.
The ride is a bit choppy on rough pavement, but quite good on smooth roads. At high speeds in tight corners the V6 version feels like flying a P-51 Mustang fighter, with always enough power and agility to get out of a bad situation. The brakes both front and rear are the largest currently available on a street car, four 17-inch discs with ABS, so the little TT V6 stops like a race car. This is part of what you get you buy a premium-priced sports car such as this one.
The TT 3.2 also comes with an innovative new transmission called an automatic direct shift gearbox, which is a manual transmission with six forward speeds, two separate gear shafts, and two different clutches, one for first, third, fifth and reverse, and one for second, fourth and sixth gears. The DSG, as Audi calls it, straddles the technical aspects and performance of a full manual transmission with the clutchless convenience of an automatic. In the manual mode, you shift using either the shifter or buttons on the steering wheel. Move the lever and the electronics take over, declutching the clutch, shifting the gear up or down, and re-engaging the clutch with no drama, no noise, no lurching, no nothing, just a clean, crisp, quick shift, up or down. The internal computer won't let you do anything silly, like shift down from to sixth to second. If you want to treat it like an automatic, you just put the gear selector lever in Drive, and it will act like the six-speed Tiptronic automatic that other customers may find more familiar and less daunting. It's just more fun to use than the Tiptronic transmission that's available.
The high-performance 1.8 T offers a full 25 percent more power than the standard 1.8 T, bumping the output to 225 horsepower, and 207 foot-pounds of torque. It's the best balance of performance and fuel economy, giving the driver the option of keeping his right foot light and watching his fuel bills drop, or heavy on the throttle and light in the wallet. The 225-horsepower version can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 6.7 seconds, according to Audi.
Quattro is fully computer-controlled, no buttons, no switches, no low range, and its computers start managing torque and brakes when some outside force tries to make the balance stray from 50/50 front/rear drive. Quattro all-wheel drive is superb for driving in the rain and for winter driving, but it gives the car a more secure feeling even on dry pavement.
The standard 180-horsepower 1.8-liter engine revs quickly from lower rpm, accelerating steadily toward 6000 rpm. However, when you hammer it in the mid-3000 rpm range, there is some lag, and it makes you wait. The engine certainly sounds cool. Just tooling around, accelerating gently, you can hear a light whistle from the turbo. Over 4000 rpm, where you're inclined to keep it so it's ready for action, it's very smooth, and doesn't feel like the engine is revving. Audi says the TT 1.8 T coupe can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 7.9 seconds, which is reasonably quick. The ride quality in the standard model is quite comfortable, not at all stiff, no harshness anywhere.
The brakes are racing car quality; not since the BMW M5 have we felt anything so confidence-inspiring. That's in their stopping power; the problem is that the pedal position makes heel-and-toe braking and downshifting cumbersome. Which is not to say that it's impossible, and most drivers will eventually adjust. The ABS may be the smoothest we've ever seen under hard braking. We also drove into a corner too fast and the Electronic Stability Program, or ESP, corrected our imbalance, as we could feel the front wheels pulling us out of it.
The Audi TT is a terrific sports car with sharp handling and a refined feeling throughout. The downsides both have to do with size, the small size of the cockpit and the even smaller size of the trunk. But if your driving and/or commuting styles match up to this car, you will find it a very rewarding piece of equipment that still catches the eye of the beholder. The TT comes with four years of free scheduled maintenance and four years of 24-hour-a-day roadside assistance.
The engine power and torque of the 3.2-liter V6 engine in the new model makes this one the new leader, and will save the owner hundreds of downshifts over the life of the car when compared to the slightly less powerful and peakier 225 horsepower turbo four, which we have always regarded as a superior package. If you just want to bomb around with the top down in a warm climate, save the money and get the base 1.8 T engine with the 6-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission.
|Model Line Overview|
|Base Price (MSRP)||$33,250|
|As Tested (MSRP)||$44,890|
|Model lineup:||Audi TT 1.8 T 180 coupe ($33,250); 1.8 T 180 roadster ($35,250); 1.8 T 225 coupe ($36,700); 1.8 T 225 roadster ($39,500); 3.2 250 coupe ($39,900); 3.2 250 roadster ($42,900)|
|Engines:||3.2-liter sohc 24-valve V6|
|Safety equipment (Standard):||ABS, EBD, ESP yaw control, front and side airbags; ASR traction control|
|Safety equipment (Optional):||quattro all-wheel drive|
|Basic warranty:||4 years/50,000 miles|
|Assembled in:||Ingolstadt, Germany|
|Specifications As Tested|
|Model tested (MSRP):||Audi TT 3.2 coupe ($39,900)|
|Standard equipment:||power windows, power mirrors, power locks; DSG transmission|
|Options as tested:||Premium package ($700); 17-inch wheels and performance tires ($600)|
|Gas Guzzler Tax:||N/A|
|Engine (Optional):||180-hp 1.8-liter dohc 16-valve inline-4 turbo; 225-hp 1.8-liter dohc 16-valve inline-4 turbo; 250–hp 3.2-liter dohc 24-valve V6|
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm):||250 hp @ 6300 rpm|
|Torque(lb.-ft. @ rpm):||232 lb.-ft. @ 2800 rpm|
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:||N/A|
|Transmission (Optional):||6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic|
|Track, f/r:||60/59.3 in.|
|Head/hip/leg room, f:||38.7/55.6/41.2 in.|
|Head/hip/leg room, r:||N/A|
|Cargo volume:||7.8 cu. ft.|
|Suspension F:||independent strut|
|Suspension R:||independent multi-link|
|Ground Clearance:||4.4 in.|
|Curb weight:||3275 Lbs.|
|Brakes, f/r:||disc/disc with ABS|
|Fuel capacity:||16.3 gal.|
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
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